VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) _ Japanese Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto has promised special funds from the nation's central bank to protect customers of the failed brokerage giant Yamaichi Securities Co., a Japanese official said Monday.

Yamaichi, Japan's fourth largest brokerage, said Monday it would close down under the burden of a 3 trillion yen ($24 billion) debt.

Hashimoto, who is in Vancouver, British Columbia, for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, was quoted as telling Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien that Japan is ``doing everything that can be done,'' to deal with the Yamaichi closure.

Yamaichi, the largest Japanese company to close since the end of World War II, is the third financial company to fail in less than a month in Japan.

Sanyo Securities, a medium-sized brokerage, went bankrupt Nov. 3 after failing to repay mounting debts. Hokkaido Takushoku, a major commercial bank, collapsed a week ago.

The fall of a major company like Yamaichi was previously unthinkable in Japan, where government protection of top corporations has been a key to bringing about economic growth.

The failure is the latest in a series of economic problems for Japan, including sluggish growth and debt-laden banks.

In Tokyo, the finance minister and the Bank of Japan Gov. Yasuo Matsushita have said Yamaichi Securities will be able to make good on all of its debts because the company's assets exceed its liabilities. Matsushita said the central bank would provide special loans to fund account cancellations via Yamaichi's parent bank, Fuji Bank Ltd.